The Consumer Product Safety Commission is drawing closer to finalizing a deadline for unblockable-drain retrofits, while some in the industry try to
work around the requirements in new ways.
In 2010, the CPSC determined that an unblockable drain cover could
be installed over a smaller sump to comply with the Virginia Graeme
Baker Act. “Unblockable” was defined as a cover
measuring more than 18-by-23-inches and meeting certain testing
criteria. Last September, the group reversed itself, requiring that
the sump also meet the dimensional and flow criteria. Three of the
five voting commissioners said they feared that the smaller sumps
could pose a danger if the drain covers were to come off.
The CPSC mandated retrofits on drains that fell out of the
unblockable category. It set a deadline of May 28, 2012, but said
it would consider a later date based on public comments.
With the deadline and Memorial Day weekend less than two months
away, the agency is closer to finalizing the matter. On Thursday,
April 5, 2012, CPSC will vote on whether to allow a deadline
extension of nearly one year to retrofit the drains in question.
The extension was recommended by staff and, if approved, will move
the deadline to May 23, 2013, the Thursday before Memorial
“If a pool operator installed an unblockable drain system,
staff believes it is reasonable to allow them time to budget and
plan for the expenditure required to install a secondary
anti-entrapment system,” said a memo to the four voting
Staff also stated that this extension would apply only to those
facilities affected by the unblockable-drain change, and that
enforcement will continue uninterrupted on all other pools and
At least one of the four, Commissioner Anne Northup, is behind an
“From Anne’s perspective, if staff says ... we should
extend the date, Anne’s going to be for that,” said
Northup spokesperson Mark Fellin. “Anne didn’t want it
changed to begin with.”
She and fellow Republican Commissioner Nancy Nord opposed the
September decision. Northup encouraged interested parties to
register comments not only on the retrofit deadline, but on the
merits of the reversal itself, hoping the agency would reconsider.
Commenters obliged, with many decrying the reversal and others
Though the vast majority of commenters chose to address the merits
of the decision rather than the deadline, all signs indicate that
CPSC will hold to its decision.
While CPSC is at work to nail down a deadline, some in the industry
are trying different strategies to adapt to, or reverse, the
decision. In the first category is Bee Safe
Systems, an unblockable-drain producer in Provo, Utah. In a
petition to CPSC, the company requested that its product be
reclassified as compliant. According to the VGBA, a technology not
specifically named in the law can comply if CPSC deems it at least
as safe as those that were mentioned.
Bee Safe CEO Bonnie Snow is asking that her product be so named,
saying the technology doesn’t rely solely on the
cover’s size but includes additional features to help prevent
hair entrapment and cover removal.
“Our product really is a drain system rather than a drain
cover,” she said.
CPSC has published the petition in
the Federal Register and
opened the issue up to a 60-day comment period, after which the
agency has 120 days for review.
Another, less proprietary, effort also is in the works. Walt
Sanders, a lobbyist hired by manufacturer Worldwide Sports, has
submitted a petition asking that CPSC deem drain covers meeting
certain criteria to be at least as safe as those specifically named
in the law.
The petition proposes that to qualify, covers would have to
satisfy the drain-cover standard ANSI/APSP-16-2011, must remain
safe when covered by an 18-by-23-inch blocking element, be designed
to be affixed to a smaller sump, and have a certified flow rating
equal to or greater than the pump’s flow capacity.
“The big worry is the [cover] will come off or get
broken,” Sanders said. “What we’re saying is, if
it’s secure enough and good enough and big enough, and it
meets the standard, it should be classified as another
The petition, also signed by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals,
the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, is being reviewed by CPSC to see if it qualifies for a public comment period and CPSC consideration.